Elements of a world ethic for living sustainably

Elements of a world ethic for living sustainably

Every human being is part of the community of life, made up of all living creatures. This community links all human societies, present and future generations, and humanity and the rest of nature. It embraces both cultural and natural diversity.

Every human being has the same fundamental and equal rights, including: the right to life, liberty and security of person; to the freedoms of thought, conscience, and religion; to enquiry and expression; to peaceful assembly and association; to participation in government; to education; and, within the limits of the Earth, to the resources needed for a decent standard of living. No individual, community or nation has the right to deprive another of its means of subsistence.

Each person and each society is entitled to respect of these rights; and is responsible for the protection of these rights for all others.

Every life form warrants respect indifferently of its worth to people. Human development should not threaten the integrity of nature or the survival of other species. People should treat all creatures decently, and protect them from cruelty, avoidable suffering, and unnecessary killing.

Everyone should take responsibility for his or her impacts on nature. People should conserve ecological processes and the diversity of nature, and use any resource frugally and efficiently, ensuring that their uses of renewable resources are sustainable.

Everyone should aim to share fairly the benefits and costs of resources use, among different communities and interest groups, among regions that are poor and those that are affluent, and between present and future generations. Each generation should leave to the future a world that is at least as diverse and productive as the one it inherited. Development of one society or generation should not limit the opportunities of other societies or generations.

The protection of human rights and those of the rest of nature is a worldwide responsibility that transcends all culture, ideological and geographical boundaries. The responsibility is both individual and collective.


– Extract from ‘Caring for the Earth – A strategy for Sustainable Living’ published by IUCN, UNEP and WWF in 1991.

Environmental loss

”Far-reaching images, such as the Anthropocene and the Sixth Great Extinction are, help us register the true degree of the planet’s predicament and the real magnitude of the processes we have set in train which may bring about our ruin. They are of enormous value. They are talked about daily. Indeed, they are generating an academic industry on their own. But they do not necessarily convey the immediacy and astringent character of environmental loss, which in every case, somewhere along the line, involves hurt. If loss of nature becomes a sort of essay subject, we miss its immediacy; we may lose sight of its sadness and its nastiness, its sharp and bitter taste, the great wounding it really is.”

– Michael McCarthy’s – ‘The Moth Snowstorm’.